Calvin's Commentaries, Vol. 4: Harmony of the Law, Part II, tr. by John King, [1847-50], at sacred-texts.com
23. And thou shalt eat before the LORD thy God, in the place which he shall choose to place his name there, the tithe of thy corn, of thy wine, and of thine oil, and the firstlings of thy herds and of thy flocks; that thou mayest learn to fear the LORD thy God always.
23. Et comedes coram Jehova Deo tuo in loco quem elegerit ut habitare faciat nomen suum ibi, decimam frumenti tui, vini tui, et olei tui, et primogenita boum tuorum, et pecudum tuarum: ut discas timere Jehovam Deum tuum omnibus diebus.
24. And if the way be too long for thee, so that thou art not able to carry it; or if the place be too far from thee, which the LORD thy God shall choose to set his name there, when the LORD thy God hath blessed thee:
24. Quod si longior fuerit via quam ut per eam ferre possis illas, quod distet a te locus ille quem elegerit Jehova Deus tuus ut ponat nomen suum ibi, quum benedixerit tibi Jehova Deus tuus:
25. Then shalt thou turn it into money, and bind up the money in thine hand, and shalt go unto the place which the LORD thy God shall choose:
25. Tunc dabis pro pecunia, et colligabis pecuniam in manu tua, et ibis ad locum quem elegerit Jehova Deus tuus:
26. And thou shalt bestow that money for whatsoever thy soul lusteth after, for oxen, or for sheep, or for wine, or for strong drink, or for whatsoever thy soul desireth: and thou shalt eat there before the LORD thy God, and thou shalt rejoice, thou, and thine household,
26. Et dabis pecuniam pro omni eo quod desiderat anima tua, pro bobus, et pro ovibus, et pro vino, et pro sicera, et pro cunctis denique quae postulaverit a te anima tua: et comedes ibi coram Jehova Deo tuo, et laetaberis tu et domus tua.
23. And thou shalt eat before the Lord. He again commands the victims to be brought into the place of the sanctuary; although by the place which God shall choose, he designates Jerusalem, as has been said in the above commentary on chap. 12; for the Ark of the Covenant had no settled resting-place until the time of David, but was received as it were in temporary lodgings. Moses, therefore, now commands, that when God shall have so greatly honored a particular place, and shall have chosen a perpetual rest, in which His name shall dwell, thither are the offerings to be brought. But we know that this place was Jerusalem; and all the oblations were restricted to this one place, lest any corruption should creep in to destroy the unity of the faith. For all strange inventions, as has already been sufficiently seen, are so many profanations of God’s worship. But, whereas in chap. 12, Moses had promiscuously joined the tithes with the firstlings, and had made the same appointment with respect to both, he now relaxes the stringency of that law, by adding an exception, viz, that if the way should be too long, a commutation might be made, and money might be paid instead of corn. He does not, indeed, speak only of the tithes, but unites with them the vows and free-gifts; nay, he refers properly to these alone. But, since as to the latter there is no question, let us only consider whether it was consistent that the tithes should be paid in one place alone. They were given to the Levites for their maintenance, who, as is well known, were dispersed throughout the whole land; either then their residence must have been fixed at Jerusalem, or they must not be deprived of their subsistence, wherever they might dwell. The command, therefore, appears to be absurd, that all the tithes of the whole land should be brought to Jerusalem, for that would have amounted to nothing less than to destroy the poor Levites by famine. This absurdity has compelled the commentators to fabricate a doubtful conjecture; viz., that the people voluntarily set apart certain tithes, which they might carry to Jerusalem at the festivals; but it is not probable that so heavy a burden was imposed upon them, 110 as that they should only keep at home what remained of the fifth part. But a nearer approach to probability would be, that the tithes of the neighboring country, as convenience offered, were carried to Jerusalem; whilst those which were collected in more distant places were set aside there; but that they were accounted for at Jerusalem, so that upon a calculation of the number of their families, an equal distribution might be made to the Levites. Certainly it is by no means probable that the respective tillers of the soil carried up to Jerusalem what the Levites, having received there, were compelled to take back again for the maintenance of their families; for what would have been the advantage of all this expense and trouble of carrying them backwards and forwards? Besides, it would have been useless to command the Levites, and that too with the addition of severe threats, to pay the priests faithfully, if the tithes had been first deposited with the priests themselves, who might easily have provided against all deception, since they had the whole quantity of corn in their own hands. I have, therefore, no doubt but that the Levites collected the tithes each in their own neighborhood, but that another tithing, of which mention will be made presently, was carried up to the sanctuary as a sacred offering, and a profession of service to God. For we have lately seen, that after that part had been withdrawn, the nine parts which remained were assigned to the Levites, as if they had been grown on their own ground. But because it was a subject which might cause complaints, that the first-fruits and other tithes should be collected into one place, God would anticipate this by showing the advantage of it to the whole people, in that there might be food enough for all who should come to the celebration of the festivals; for this is the meaning of the words, “thou shalt eat before the Lord thy God;” as if it had been said, that the place should be sacred to God, to which the worshippers of God might come from the whole land. Yet He commands, in the meanwhile, the pure observation of His worship; lest a diversity of places might draw away the people in various directions to false superstitions.
24 And if the way be too long. I am prevented from understanding this restriction as having reference to the tithes, by the ordinance which is elsewhere made, that whosoever would redeem them by a money-payment, (Le 27:31,) should add a fifth part, and this is omitted here; and, again, by the explanation which is soon after added, that they should bring money with them instead of their offerings, and buy with it oxen and sheep, wine, and strong drink, as they pleased. The sum is, that if it were too burdensome for them to bring from their distant homes victims and other gifts, they were permitted to buy at Jerusalem whatever they chose to offer, provided they made no offerings elsewhere.
“De redoubler ainsi les dismes les unes sur les autres;” thus to redouble their tithes one upon another. — Fr.